"I love to play it as the opener," Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino said at the kickoff event. "I think anytime you see events like this, and you see what it's done for the excitement leading up to this season, and when you see players from both sides wanting to play it as the opener, it's good for the state of Kentucky, great for the high school football programs, and certainly good for both universities."
Petrino's Cards have won five out of the last six meetings with the Cats, and seven of the last eleven since the series was renewed in 1994. U of L athletic director Tom Jurich has made his intentions well known. He also wants to keep the game as the season opener for both schools.
"It's a game that elevates both schools," Jurich said. "There's great interest in it. It's so important to keep that interest going. I think you can see the dividends from playing it as the first game. You've got high school teams, middle school teams, pop warner teams, there is so much interest in football from the game. Really, from that last basket made in March or early April, interest takes off for this game until early September. It's an exciting time."
But the Kentucky contingent doesn't necessarily agree. UK head football coach Rich Brooks has gone on record saying he would prefer to not play the game as the season opener, and instead follow the lead of other SEC schools and play the big "rivalry game" later in the year. Brooks also wants to play a "lesser" opponent as the season opener, like other teams in the SEC.
At the Governor's Cup event, Brooks backed off his stance a little bit saying, "I know we're playing on September 4th, and that's my focus and interest right now. I'm interested in continuing to play this game. I think it's a great series. I'm sure the details of when it will be played will be worked out in the future. I assume it better be worked out pretty quick since this is the last year of the regularly scheduled game."
UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart has been supportive of Brooks' wishes and has vowed to "look into" moving the series if that's what is best for the Kentucky program. Barnhart said, "I want to make sure what we do is in the best interest of the University of Kentucky football program. Tom has done a great job with the University of Louisville. He's done a great job of putting in position things that are good for the University of Louisville's football program. I want the same opportunity to make sure that we have the ability to do things that are good for the University of Kentucky's football program, and that's all we want to make sure."
Barnhart added, "It might be the first game. It might be something we might have to look at a little bit differently, but at this point and time he (Jurich) has done a great job with their program in being able to position these things, and we would like the same flexibility to be able to make sure that's what we need."
Jurich, who hired Petrino at about the same time that Barnhart hired Brooks, doesn't care if the new contract is another six year deal, 10, 15 or forever. He says he just wants to get it done and was expecting to meet with Barnhart before the Governor's Cup Golf Classic was over.
"I think it's much bigger than a football game," Jurich said. "It's been such a tremendous event for both schools. You don't look at it in 'wins and losses'. You look at what it has done for the state itself, and I compare it to an event like the state fair."
Barnhart added, "We'll play the game. We just haven't worked out the details yet. You guys (the media) seem to be much more concerned about it than we are in terms of scheduling. It will get there. We'll let you know when that happens. As of right now, events like this are fun. It's enjoyable. It's fun to get everyone together. I don't think that changes when you play the game at the same time. We haven't sat down and talked about it. We'll get there and we'll let you know when that happens."
Kentucky also argues that they want to move the game to later in the season while they continue to rebuild from NCAA sanctions and scholarship restrictions. Jurich isn't buying it.
"Honestly, I don't think the probation has anything to do with it," Jurich said. "You want to talk about struggles? I came in and we took over a program that had lost 14 out of 15 football games. We had a non-BCS label on our back. Kentucky was at an all-time high with Hal Mumme and Tim Couch. That's a struggle! Losing 19 scholarships is not a struggle. I would have traded that to have the SEC any day."